Pork producers hit a snag

PORK producers in the Northern Rivers may be hard hit by pressure to phase out the use of dry sow stalls. Buyers are demanding sow stall-free pork..

These stalls are used to house sows in the early weeks of their pregnancy.

“We believe they are a very important tool for maintaining sow welfare in the early stages of gestation,” said Australian Pork Limited (APL) chief executive Andrew Spencer.

Greg Denelzen, manager of the Mondoro Piggery in Casino which has 1000 sows, said the stalls protected pregnant sows from aggression.

However, it seems that the Australian consumer, the Coles supermarket chain, and the state of Tasmania see stalls a different way and their view may eat into pork profits.

Increasingly buyers are demanding sow stall free pork, said Coles general manager of meat, Allister Watson.

That’s the reason Coles pork producers will start phasing out the use of stalls, he said.

At the same time Tasmania has recently become the first state to ban sow stalls, a move applauded by the RSPCA which regards the use of the stalls as cruel.

Figures suggest the local pork industry is currently worth around $25 million, with 22 producers in the area sharing a slice of the $1 billion annually earned at the farm gate by around 850 national producers.

Mr Spencer said those earnings were under threat not just from the sow stall row but from a growing percentage of cheaper, imported product.

“Currently more than 70 per cent of ham and bacon products are made from imported pork produced in countries such as Denmark, Canada and the United States.”

That figure had grown from 20,000 tonnes in 2000 to 140,000 tonnes in 2010.

The irony was that these countries continue to use gestation stalls and have no plan to stop using them, he said.

Compounding local producers’ problems are labelling laws that let imported product fly under theradar.

Mr Denelzen said pork that was cured in Australia could still belabelled Made in Australia even if the meat had come from overseas.

There had already been a large decline in the number of pork producers in Australia because of the combination of these pressures, he added.

The APL is due to hold a meeting with members on Monday night.

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